Arrival : Through religion into science!

If I have to single out one comment about the movie ‘Arrival’ that irritates me the most, it has to be this : “Oh! it is so like interstellar!”

True, there are similarities. Both movies view at time in a different perspective. But to regard both movies as similar just because of this is what can be termed as impulsive at best! A more closer examination of both of them is sure to cast a light on differences among them rather than the similarities.This write-up is an attempt to single out one such difference which I personally find very interesting!

To understand this difference in its full glory, we need a skim-through of our history. So let us do that. About 65000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens were hunter-gatherers, they had an animist faith. According to them, there wasn’t a difference between themselves and rest of the flora and fauna. Their Gods didn’t occupy a higher place than themselves and they didn’t think that their Gods have created this world. Homo Sapiens, then, used to talk with trees, animals, angels, fairies and demons as they all are equal. If a tribe wanted more fruits from a particular tree, the members of the tribe used to prey for more fruits to the tree itself.

With the advent of an agricultural revolution, Homo Sapiens changed views. They awarded God a higher place than themselves. They also thought the humans were special to God than the rest of the living beings. They created a school of religion. They started believing that there was a grand plan laid out by God and that they should abide by that. Now, if a tribe needed more fruits from a particular tree, they preyed to their God. The God became the middleman. Their lifestyle grew more and more regressive, with the pervasion of religion. But the fact that all their misery is a part of God’s plan gave their life a certain meaning in their eyes.

Then, scientific revolution happened. Technology armed men with power like never before. Men(and women) started doing things that were deemed impossible, and their God took a backseat. Now, if people needed more fruits from a tree, they didn’t prey to anybody. Instead, they altered the genes of that plant. Today, if people do something morally questionable, they go to their friends or therapists instead of religious leaders and ask for advice. And the advice that they are most likely to receive is to ponder on how they themselves think about what they did, instead of thinking whether their God approves such behavior. But, there remained no one and nothing to give meaning to their life. We all did great things standing over an abyss of meaninglessness. As we befriended YOLO attitude, we gave up meaning in an exchange of power.

All this has been explored in great detail in the book “Homo Deus : A brief history of tomorrow” authored by Yuval Noah Harari. I suggest you give it a read.

Coming back to Interstellar and Arrival, I would like to argue that Interstellar is a religious movie, in a sense that it reminds us of the times when religion grew with Homo Sapiens. Every character’s sacrifice in the Interstellar carries meaning with it. In Interstellar, often love takes the place of God that I described in the 4th paragraph. Arrival has something else to offer. It reminds us of an era after the scientific revolution. The Heptapods’ gift to Louise is a metaphor for the immense power science gave us. Interstellar shows, very tangibly, the advantages that a sacrifice can bring, while Arrival chooses not to dwell on that. Instead, it remains focused on Louise. Here, Louise represents the collective human tribe. The gift changes the way Louise sees at her life. “Do I have a free Will?” and “Is there a point in living a life whose entire canvass is already known to you?”, she thinks. The second question brings forth the perceived meaninglessness of the entire situation. In the end, she indeed chooses to live and this is precisely her choice that gives meaning to her life. Not some Gods or Aliens.

Of course, despite some awkward writing, Interstellar is more enjoyable to an average audience,but for me, Arrival will always remain an inch taller than Interstellar!